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March 23 2014 05:24 PM

By now you may have heard that the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) has ruled additional mailer requirements for Full-Service equivalent to a price increase, and that USPS has postponed the Full-Service mandate indefinitely. This is likely a relief for mailers who postponed their conversion, but what can we expect in the months and years to come?

USPS Still Wants Full-Service
 
The USPS response to the PRC's ruling makes it very clear that the Post Office is not happy about a delay in implementation.
The timing of the PRC decision couldn't have been worse for USPS. While the PRC had the Full-Service proposal in hand for several months, USPS was notifying customers, training employees and enhancing systems to be ready for the January 26 deadline. After the POSTNET retirement was postponed several times, the Postal Service had to battle doubt from mailers and employees alike. By postponing Full-Service at the eleventh hour, trust in USPS deadlines has eroded, and it will be harder to drive change the next time they set a date.

Full-Service still has untapped potential for USPS. In addition to the piece, tray and container tracking information they collect from Full-Service Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMbs), USPS gains many efficiencies by enforcing the electronic documentation requirement.
By submitting documentation electronically, USPS can eliminate many steps usually performed by an acceptance clerk, including entering the postage statement into PostalOne!, and verifying the sort rules and regulations were applied correctly to the mailing. Despite all its best efforts, USPS still processes many postage statements and other documentation entirely by hand, taking up valuable time at entry and verification. This hand-verification also allowed some mailers to have "handshake deals" with their entry personnel when errors were found, causing mail preparation and entry to be inconsistent from location to location. In some locations, mailers are (surprisingly) still hand-sorting and handwriting their postage documentation, which will not be allowed in a Full-Service world. While this will require some smaller mailers to purchase software or use a larger mail service provider, the more sophisticated mailing preparation will make mail transportation and delivery more predictable for USPS.

Currently, each acceptance clerk requires a strong understanding of Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) regulations. This knowledge can be difficult to gain and transfer, especially when rules change so frequently. By reducing manual labor, training and verification times, Full-Service will allow USPS to further downsize their workforce, especially at verification.
New benefits for Full-Service MSPs
 
USPS will now need to find new ways to entice mailers into using Full-Service. Most of the larger mailers and Mailing Service Providers (MSPs) converted long ago, and several more have made the jump in anticipation of the 2014 mandate. The first new "carrot" for mailers was released in mid-December, a Full-Service Certification (FSC) program for mailers and MSPs. This program replaces the Mail Preparation Total Quality Management (MPTQM) certification, which will be gradually phased out. Mailers who qualify will have the opportunity to get listed on the USPS website and increase their visibility to their potential customers. After sending Full-Service mailings for at least 90 days, you can apply for this program. There are two levels of certification, Standard and Platinum.
For Standard certification, you'll need to monitor your Mailer Scorecard for your Full-Service mailings. If you maintain quality over the specified thresholds, you can gain the certification simply by completing the form. This is a relatively pain-free way for MSPs to gain another advertising opportunity, as USPS will be encouraging smaller mailers to use certified mailers if they don't want to prepare mailings on their own.
If you have more in-depth processes, you could qualify for Platinum certification. In addition to the Standard criteria, you'll need to perform and pass an internal audit, and also an external audit performed by a Certified Quality Auditor. After completing your audits, you'll submit the results along with the signup form to USPS. Once certified, you'll be added to the list of approved mailers on the USPS RIBBS website. You can also find more information about this program by visiting http://ribbs.usps.gov.
Full-Service Will Be Required Eventually Either through a change in the pricing structure or a new mandate in the coming years, mailers will need to migrate to Full-Service in the future. If you've already made the switch, congratulations! If not, take advantage of the reprieve by making the changes you need to now, so that you'll be ready when a new USPS deadline approaches.

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